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Buying my first (racing) drone

Like most tech enthusiasts I have been interested in drones (technically quadcopters) for quite a while now. Many of my friends and family members have purchased one but I never took the leap. That is going to finally change this month! The tipping points were this amazing video by Corridor Crew and Wren's awesome "pod racing" video on Instagram.

While there are a lot of ways into drone racing I decided to mimic those videos which meant buying an AcroBee from NewBeeDrone. This was where I hit my first wall. The product description made no mention of what transmitters or goggles it was compatible with. Also the word "FrSky" in the title just added to my confusion.

Finding no useful information on the NewBeeDrone website I turned to Reddit and stumbled upon r/Multicopter's wiki which was completely overwhelming and near impenetrable. I did manage to learn that FrSky is the name of a company that makes RC transmitters which the flight controller in the AcroBee appear to be compatible with. I'm sure there are other transmitters that are compatible whatever frequencies / protocols FrSky uses but I am already so lost that I am not going go poking around that dark hole.

So now I know that I need to buy some sort of FrSky transmitter. The question is which one? I could poke around the transmitters section of the FrSky website and hope to have some sort of epiphany. But instead I chose to try and find video evidence of a specific transmitter working with the AcroBee. If I knew what I was looking for earlier I may have noticed a video on the AcroBee product page titled "How to Bind - BeeBrain Lite". It literally demonstrates how to bind a transmitter to the drone and showcases the Taranis X9D Plus which just so happens to be the same transmitter that Wren uses.

If I ordered the AcroBee and Taranis X9D Plus I believe I would have everything I need to actually fly the drone. But one of the coolest things about the AcroBee is that an FPV camera is built into it. So if I had a pair of goggles I could literally see what the drone sees. But what goggles should I buy? I've always heard great things about Fat Shark and it looks like their latest and greatest product is the HDO which feature OLED displays. I watched a couple YouTube videos to confirm their quality (including this this one from UAVfutures) and decided they were the goggles for me.

One of the big disadvantages of the HDO goggles is that they do not come with a receiver built-in. Out of the box there is no way for the HDOs to receive a video signal from your FPV camera. So I went back to Google looking for the best receiver module for the HDOs and the consensus seems to be the ImmersionRC rapidFIRE 5.8GHz. I found this excellent YouTube video that gives a solid breakdown of the features and some real-world demonstrations.

I wanted to write this article because I was entirely clueless about racing drones and hoped detailing my first experiences may help someone else. However, when I read this article over it seems to boil down to "Reid saw something on YouTube and decided to buy it". Instead of researching exactly how all of this technology fits together and starting small with an all-in-one kit, I decided to jump into the deep end and pick the high class shit.

If you add up everything I chose:

you're easily over $1,000 USD before tax. Even I realize that is absolutely insane for someone who has never flown a drone in his life. So there is stage 1 of my plans. I am just going to buy the drone and the transmitter. I should be able to fly around my apartment with that and get a sense of how much I enjoy it. If I get hooked then I'll start pissing my money away with the googles and other goodies.

If you want to follow my first experiences with racing drones in real-time I would recommend following me on Twitter or Instagram.